US 20090165089 A1
Systems and techniques for mediating user communications. A user persona manager maintains one or more user profiles and manages user interactions with other parties and with service providers based on user preferences associated with the user profile or profiles selected for a particular interaction. The persona manager receives a single set of user authentication information to establish the user identity, and provides previously stored information to other parties and service providers as appropriate, and otherwise conducts user interactions involving communications initiated by or on behalf of the user. The persona manager also examines interactions initiated by others, selects user profiles appropriate to the interactions, and routes and responds to the interactions based on information stored in the user profiles.
1. A communication system, comprising:
a communication exchange for receiving communications from a user directed to other parties and service providers and receiving communications to be directed to the user from the other parties and service providers; and
a persona manager for monitoring user interactions conducted over one or more electronic communication systems and automatically mediating communications between the user and the other parties and service providers carried on over the one or more electronic communication systems, the persona manager being operative to manage communications according to predetermined user preferences, managing communications including selecting user profiles and applying preferences appropriate to the nature and context of the communications.
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14. A method of managing user communications, comprising the steps of:
selecting a user profile based on the nature and context of an interaction between a user and another party or a service provider carried on over one or more electronic communication systems; and
managing the interaction so as to present a public presence for the user based on preferences associated with the user profile.
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The present invention relates generally to improvements to communications and user interfaces with communication systems. More particularly, the invention relates to improved systems and techniques for managing the presence presented by a user in different communication contexts.
Communication is of great and increasing importance in modern life. Many people spend much of their lives in communication with others in numerous different contexts, such as personal and work email, instant messaging, voice communication, text messaging, online shopping, online auctions, and innumerable other different varieties of communication. Users present many different personas in these contexts, for example, presenting different patterns of behavior and sharing different types of information. In their activities in different personas, users may employ the same or some of the same communication methods, such as instant messaging, email, or other methods, with the user presenting his or her persona based on the identities of the persons and groups with whom he or she is interacting and the activities being conducted, rather than the mechanics by which communication is conducted.
Many users engage in myriad different types of activities, with each type of activity being associated with numerous elements of information relating to the user. For example, a member of a professional organization may have identifiers, such as a registration number identifying himself or herself as a member of the organization, and a user id and password used to log in to a website maintained by the organization. The user may also be willing to share information with members of the organization that he or she may not be willing to share with other persons, such as unidentified email correspondents.
In addition, many people employ numerous different elements of information to identify themselves in their various activities, maintaining, for example, numerous different sets of user ids and passwords. In addition, persons may engage in sets of activities associated with a particular persona, such as actions taken by a player's character in an online game, or bidding habits in online auctions. As the number of activities in which users are engaged continues to increase, the burden of managing the information identifying and enabling these activities continues to increase.
Among its several aspects, the present invention addresses such issues, as well as others, by presenting a user with a mechanism for managing his or her different personas, and the various public presences that are presented by following the preferences in the different persona. The public presence of a user may include, for example, different identities that are presented in various public venues. For example, a user may wish to present his or her true identity in venues such as his or her work or financial activities, but may wish to present a pseudonymous activity in other venues, such as public forums. In addition, the public presence that a user wishes to present may influence the behavior that may be engaged in by the user. For example, one persona may include preferences directed toward cautious or aggressive tendencies in venues such as online auctions, so that a persona can present a public presence of a user that automatically behaves in certain ways based on the preferences expressed in that persona. Still another aspect of the user's public presence can relate to sharing of information and what sort of information is shared, and with whom.
A user presents a single authenticator to a persona manager, which mediates between the user and the various mechanisms he or she uses to engage in his or her various online activities. The persona manager suitably stores identifiers, permissions, behavior preferences, and other selections established by the user. The user is able to use the persona manager to invoke various activities, and the persona manager automates various aspects of the activities, implementing user actions and providing authorized information according to the particular activity being engaged in and the particular persona being presented.
The persona manager can also manage incoming communications, for example, managing responses to requests for instant messaging sessions, emails, requests for information, and other incoming communications. The persona manager can examine an incoming communication, identifying the source of the communication and associating the communication with a particular persona presented by the user, and deal with the communication appropriately. A communication from an unknown sender may be given a low priority, and a communication from a specifically rejected user may be blocked. A communication from a colleague may be given a high priority, or may be treated in specified ways, such as routing it to a user's work email address, or alerting the user through an instant message or voicemail. Numerous additional mechanisms for managing incoming communications may be employed, as specified by the user or determined by rules set up by the user.
A more complete understanding of the present invention, as well as further features and advantages of the invention, will be apparent from the following Detailed Description and the accompanying drawings.
The central exchange 102 directs communication traffic to customers. Traffic may originate in any of the various networks and systems 106, 108, and 110, but a communication may be redirected to a different network from that in which the communication originated. For example, a text message directed to a user's email may be redirected to the user's cellular telephone, or a telephone message may be redirected to a user's instant messaging client.
A user communicates with the system 100 using a number of devices, including a cellular telephone 112, a landline telephone 114, and a computer 116. The cellular telephone 112 suitably provides data capabilities and is capable of communicating over the cellular telephone network 106 and the wireless data network 110. The user is able to employ each of these devices to interact with numerous different persons and organizations in numerous different ways.
The central exchange 102 suitably includes a server 118, including a processor 120, memory 122, and storage 124, communicating over a bus 126. The exchange 102 also includes an interface and routing system 128, for receiving and routing communications received over the various networks 106, 108, and 110. The interface and routing system delivers information relating to various communications to the server 118, which then supplies information used in directing, forwarding, responding to, or otherwise managing the communications.
The server 118 implements a persona manager 130, which may suitably be implemented as software hosted in storage 124 and transferred to memory 122 for execution as needed by the processor 120. The persona manager 130 has access to a user information database 132, hosting a plurality of user records that may suitably include user preferences, rules, and information, for each user of the system. For simplicity, the operation of the persona manager 130 will be described with respect to a single user, but it will be recognized that the persona manager will typically provide services to a large number of users and managing a large number of communications.
The persona manager 130 presents an interface to the user, allowing the user to present a single set of authenticators that will establish a first relationship between the persona manager 130 and the user, authorizing the persona manager to authenticate the user to all the different services that the user employs through the persona manager. Authentication may be accomplished, for example, by submitting a username and password using the computer 116 or the telephone 112, or may simply be accomplished through authentication information provided by the devices, such as an electronic serial number supplied by the cellular telephone, or an authentication key submitted by the computer 116. If desired, the persona manager 130 may be configured so as to require the user to submit additional authentication information for various classes of activities, such as a banking authenticator allowing access to the various banking activities conducted by the user, such as credit card, deposit account, and brokerage services. Once a user has provided the required authentication to the persona manager 130, the persona manager 130 can automatically supply authentication information to the various services to which the user may request access. This information might include the banking information mentioned above, entertainment subscription information, online shopping information, and whatever additional information is needed to obtain access to the services. The persona manager 130 is suitably able to sense the “presence” of a user. One example of such sensing might be recognizing the fact that a user's cellular 112 telephone is turned on, or that the user is engaged in a conversation using the cellular telephone. Another example might be the fact that the user's instant message client is active and the user is logged on, as well as whether the user is accessing the client from his or her computer or from a mobile device. Still another example might be the presence of a user's Bluetooth device in proximity to a particular Bluetooth server, with this information indicating the user's physical location.
In addition, the persona manager 130 may suitably examine the user's activities and communications on the public Internet, for example, shopping activities. All of this information can be used to detect the user's various private presences and to manage his or her public presences appropriately.
Suitably, the persona manager 130 has access to a number of user profiles, suitably stored in a user record 134 in the database 132. The profiles may include, for example, an online shopping and auction profile 136A, an online banking profile 136B, a work profile 136C, a student profile 136D, or any other profile that the user may wish to create, or that may be automatically established for the user. A user may specifically select a profile to be used. For example, before beginning a particular activity, such as an instant message session, the user may specify that the profile to be used is the student profile 136D. Alternatively, the persona manager 130 may suitably select the profile according to rules, taking into account information such as time of day, such as during the workday or on the weekend, location from which the user is initiating a communication, such as home, work, or school, service being invoked, such as banking services, online auction, professional association website, or person with whom communication is being initiated, such as a work colleague, a fellow student, a fellow member of a professional association, an unknown person, or a person whom the user specifically desires to avoid.
The user record 134 suitably includes a user information repository 138. The user information repository 138 suitably includes various elements of information that the user may desire to employ or to share, such as usernames and passwords for online services. The information repository 138 also includes information that may be shared with others, such as contact information that the user employs in various capacities. These may include work or student emails and telephone numbers, credit card billing addresses such as may be used in online shopping, frequent flyer numbers, and other information. The persona manager 130 controls the sharing of various aspects of these elements of information depending on user specifications and preferences.
The user may suitably supply information for storage in the information repository 138 on an ongoing basis, and information may suitably be extracted from user inputs during user activities for storage. For example, the persona manager 130 may monitor user communications, and may extract and store useful information entered by or supplied to the user during those communications. For example, when a user signs up for an airline frequent flyer program, the frequent flyer number may be recognized by the persona manager 130 and stored.
The persona manager 130 may suitably be active at all times, both responding to communications involving the user, whether initiated by the user or by a party contacting the user, and monitoring other activities affecting the user's public presence. A user may present a public presence in numerous different ways, such as maintaining a Myspace page or posting a Youtube video, as well as posting on forums, such as public interest and professional forums. Each of these public presences may elicit responses that may be of interest to the user, and the persona manager 130 may monitor the various public presences of the user to determine if responses or other communications have been presented in response to the user's activities. The persona manager 130 may present automated responses in appropriate cases, and may present appropriate alerts to the user when appropriate response or other events occur that may be of interest to the user.
In the case of a user initiated communication, the user presents an authentication to the persona manager 130. The persona manager 130 may be invoked whenever the user initiates a communication session, and the persona manager 130 examines authentication information presented in the communication session. In addition, the user may specifically invoke the persona manager 130, for example, through the computer 116, in order to add information to the repository 138, to establish, modify or delete user profiles, to add or change user preferences, which may suitably be recorded in a user preferences file, or to take such other actions as may be desired. For example, the user may add new email addresses as contacts, or may indicate that he or she has joined an organization and that the members of that organization are to have access to designated contact information for the user. The user may also employ a wireless device such as the telephone 112 for such purposes. Various rules and procedures may also be learned from the user's activities, such as accepting or blocking email, accepting or rejecting incoming telephone calls, and initiating telephone calls and contacts.
When the persona manager 130 is invoked in the course of a communication with another party that has been initiated by the user, the persona manger 130 examines the circumstances and context of the communication and takes action as needed. Suitably, the persona manager 130 selects a user profile from the user record 134 and examines the profile to determine the user preferences that are to be applied to the communication session. For example, if the user has initiated an instant message session with a student, the persona manager 130 may invoke an instant message service employing the instant messaging username that the user employs in communication with other students. Similarly, if a user is on a business trip, the persona manager 130 may invoke the user's work profile and may, for example, employ the user's work email address as the originating address for emails during the day and his or her home email address as the originating address during the evening and on weekends. The persona manager 130 may also supply information appropriate to a communication activity and the user profile appropriate to the activity. For example, the persona manage 130 may employ the banking profile 136B, and supply username and password information to an online banking site or may employ the shopping and auction profile 136E and use the preferences specified therein to automatically control user activities for online shopping, such as surveying auctions in which the user is participating and conducting bidding activity according to user preferences.
The persona manager 130 also manages incoming contacts with the user, examining the context of the contact and selecting the appropriate user profile and handling the contact according to the preferences specified in the profile. For example, an incoming instant messaging invitation will be examined to determine if the originator is known. An appropriate profile may be selected in view of the identity of the originator and in light of other circumstances surrounding the invitation. For example, if the user is at his or her work location, invitations from social friends may be rejected during work hours, with an appropriate message being returned to the originators. Telephone, email, and other contacts may be similarly managed. The persona manager 130 may also respond to information requests without necessarily requiring intervention by the user, For example, a fellow member of a common interest organization, such as antique collectors, may solicit an indication of interest in various items that the member has for sale. The persona manager 130 suitably identifies the originator of the message, invokes the online shopping and auction profile 136E, and generates a positive response with a request for additional information. The persona manager 130 also suitably passes the original message to an appropriate destination for the user, such as an email address, but does not need to wait for the user to notice and respond to the query in order to generate a request for information that may be of interest to the user. Other contacts, such as online advertisements, may be suppressed, allowed, or automatically responded to based on the identity of the sender and other information, such as the nature and content of the contact, as well as the context in which they are received, with the response being based on preferences expressed in the appropriate user profile.
At step 204, user information associated with the user's communication activities is collected and stored, such as contact information, identification information for various services, such as usernames and passwords, and additional information to be employed by or for the user or shared with others as appropriate. At step 206, upon initiation of a communication by a user, a persona manager is invoked and information identifying and authenticating the user is examined. At step 208, upon verification of user authentication information by the profile manager, an appropriate user profile is selected, for example, by specific selection by the user, or automatically through examination of the nature and context of the communication. At step 210, during the user's communication activities, information is supplied and actions taken as appropriate to the user preferences specified in the selected user profile.
At step 212, upon initiation of a contact with a user from another party, the persona manager is invoked and the contact is examined to identify the user being contacted and to determine characteristics such as the identity of the originator, the nature and content of the contact, and the context in which the contact is being made. At step 214, the information surrounding the contact is used to identify an appropriate user profile to be associated with the contact. At step 216, the contact is handled according to user preferences associated with the user profile.
While the present invention is disclosed in the context of a presently preferred embodiment, it will be recognized that a wide variety of implementations may be employed by persons of ordinary skill in the art consistent with the above discussion and the claims which follow below.